Nepal: Parliament should reject motion to impeach Chief Justice

The Nepali legislature should immediately reject the unprecedented motion filed on 30 April 2017 to impeach Chief Justice Sushila Karki because it threatens the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, said the ICJ today.

“This impeachment motion, the first against a sitting Chief Justice in Nepal’s history, raises very serious concerns about the independence of Nepal’s Supreme Court and the separation of powers in the country,” said Matt Pollard, who heads the ICJ’s Center for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

“The impeachment motion seems timed to suspend Chief Justice Karki just as she was scheduled to hear a politically controversial case,” he added.

The impeachment motion comes in the wake of the decision of the full bench of the Supreme Court, chaired by Justice Karki, to revoke the Cabinet’s 12 February decision to appoint a new Inspector General of Nepal Police evidently in violation of existing processes and regulations.

The motion to impeach Chief Justice was sponsored by two ruling parties, Nepali Congress and Nepal Communist Party (Maoist Center), pursuant to Article 101(2) of Nepal’s 2015 Constitution.

This provision allows for an impeachment motion against the chief justice to be moved by one-fourth of the members of the Legislature–Parliament on the grounds of “serious violation of the Constitution and law, his or her incompetence, misbehavior or failure to discharge the duties of his or her office in good faith or serious violation of code of conduct.”

Justice Karki is scheduled to retire on 7 Jun 2017, when she reaches the mandatory retirement age.

“The timing of the impeachment action, so close to the Chief Justice’s scheduled retirement, gives credence to suspicions that it is aimed at preventing her participation in judicial activity during the next few weeks,” Pollard said.

Filing the impeachment motion immediately resulted in the suspension of the Chief Justice from her duties, pursuant to Article 101(6).

“The impeachment process under Article 101 does not comply with international standards on the independence of the judiciary, as the ICJ has pointed out repeatedly in its analysis of the 2015 Constitution,” Pollard added, referring to the ICJ’s Briefing Paper on the Constitutional Draft. “This recent motion starkly demonstrates the problems with the Constitutional provision.”

Nepal’s judiciary, including the Supreme Court, had also recently been criticized by officials in the ruling parties and the military in relation to a number of high profile human rights cases.

“Nepal’s Judiciary has been instrumental protecting human rights, rule of law and enforcement of the Nepal’s obligation under international law,” Pollard said.

“The Nepali judiciary as an institution has strengthened and has gained international respect for its independence, so it should be celebrated and strengthened, instead of being subject to this kind of legislative attack,” he added.

The ICJ calls on the Government of Nepal and ruling parties to withdraw the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice in order to ensure judicial independence and the appropriate separation of powers under the rule of law in the country.

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